U.S. visitors down so far this year Outshopping up

FORT FRANCES—The low U.S. dollar has had an impact on traffic at the Fort Frances port of entry, with Canada Customs seeing more Canadians—and slightly fewer American visitors—crossing in the past three months.
Greg Mercure, chief of operations for the Canada Border Services Agency, said Thursday afternoon that border crossing numbers here for the past three months are similar to those of last April, May, and June.
What’s different is the ratio of returning residents (Canadians) and visitors (which are considered mainly U.S. tourists).
For instance, April saw 36,143 returning residents cross the border here, along with 14,095 visitors. This is 11.2 percent more returning residents than April, 2005 and 2.2 percent less U.S. visitors than a year earlier.
Then May saw 35,495 returning residents and 36,693 visitors cross here. This is seven percent more Canadians crossing than last May and 4.9 percent fewer U.S. tourists.
And last month, 34,895 returning residents and 75,845 visitors came through Customs here—7.7 percent more of the former and 2.4 less of the latter than in June, 2005.
The total crossings for April (50,238) were about seven percent higher than those in April, 2005 while the total crossings for May and June (72,188 and 110,740, respectively) were nearly even with the traffic during those months last year, said Mercure.
He noted changes in border traffic numbers can be affected by numerous factors on a month-to-month or even year-to-year basis, but speculated the low U.S. dollar was a major reason for the big increase in Canadians outshopping and the drop in U.S tourists.
“We’re seeing a little bit of a trend for Canadians purchasing larger ticket items since the Canadian dollar’s improved compared to the U.S. dollar,” he remarked.
“Another thing we do is look at the duty collections, which gives us an indication if Canadians are shopping more in the States,” added Mercure.
“For each of those three months, there’s been an average of 25 percent more duty collections than the same months last year.”
Meanwhile, district tourist operator Jerry McDougall said Thursday that two-plus night visitors are at the lowest level in the 34 years that these records have been kept, according to Statistics Canada data of border crossings for Rainy River/Fort Frances in May.
McDougall noted those staying two-plus nights dropped 27 percent from the high in 2003 while same day visitors are down 20.3 percent from the high in 2000 .
The crossing numbers for July won’t be calculated until the end of the month but Mercure predicted the trend will continue—with roughly the same number of crossings as last year but with slightly fewer visitors and more returning residents.
Last July saw a total of 117,862 crossings here.
(Fort Frances Daily Bulletin)